Mole

“I don’t know if you noticed, but I have a mole on my check.” My hand self consciously drifted up to my face, my middle finger hovering over the offending mark. I don’t remember why I brought it up, don’t remember where we were or exactly when it was. But I was talking to my boyfriend and we’d been together for probably more than a year, which is forever to a kid in college.  It was the mid 90s and I don’t remember any specifics from the conversation except for what he said in return. “Oh, I noticed the first time I met you. And then I had to consider if I wanted to date you or not.” Ok, so I remember something else. I remember the shock of feeling like I’d been slapped, the burning and swelling in the back of my throat as I tried not to cry, the emptiness in the pit of my stomach, the worthlessness.

He confirmed my fears-I was a charity case, I was lucky when someone decided to look past my monstrous physicality to date me. All very hyperbolic, but I wasn’t just an insecure young woman, I was careening towards a mental breakdown and diagnosis of borderline personality disorder.

I hate the mole. I’ve hated it for a really long time.

We had to be back from our trip by the 28th because I had my yearly appointment with the dermatologist, or as I referred to it on Facebook my annual step-on-a-paper-naked-so-the-doc-can-shine-a-light-all-over-my-body humiliation/skin cancer screening. I was talking to my Mom about it a few weeks ago and she reminded me to ask them if the mole on my cheek was safe. I told her I asked every single year because I hate it so much, hoping that they’d tell me it must come off. But every time I am told that it is perfectly benign, that I’ll never have to have it removed. My hand drifted up to my face to worry the mole again, it’s a well ingrained response at this point. As I touched it myself I confided to her that when T and I chat he loves to reach over and play with it. I told her how awful it makes me feel and how I wish he’d stop.

“Well, find out how much it costs to get it removed.” she said.

I jumped right down her throat. Accused her of hating it so much that she wanted it gone, which was completely unfair. She explained that certainly wasn’t the case, but it was clear that I had a pretty big issue with it and if it would make me happy to get rid of it we could make that happen. She was being extremely decent, and not just about this. She was awesome the whole time Z was gone.

I told Z about the conversation when we facetimed that night-he was still in Japan. Of course he knows the history with the mole. I was shocked by his response. “No. NO! You cannot remove the mole. It is part of you. You can’t do it. I love it because it is part of your face.”

We work really hard not to say, “No.” to each other. We talk things out, we respect each others personal space. He was angry and I wasn’t sure why.

At the appointment on Friday I asked the question anyway. And surprisingly it’s under $200 to get it removed. I casually reported that news to Z when I came home. His was just as upset with the idea as he was the first time I brought it up. After a few hours I was able to tell him why his reaction hurt me. It was my body, my face. If I wanted to change it it was my choice. I wanted his opinion, I respected his thoughts, but ultimately it is up to me.

The problem is that anything having to do with my physicality is still fraught between the two of us. We have worked through so much in our relationship, but the self image stuff was so damaging to both of us it has sort of been easier to ignore. During my breakdown I used to think when anyone paid me a compliment that they were actually making fun of me. They pitied me, they thought I was stupid, and if they took the time to say something nice they were actively being cruel. I was very sick. I mean, obviously. Sick and narcissistic. Yup, even if you hate yourself you can be a narcissist if you believe that people are spending all their time thinking about you.

We don’t talk about how I look. Z doesn’t even want to offer a suggestion on what color nail polish I should get for a pedicure. He rarely tells me I look nice. Because he doesn’t want to have a fight about how I think he is making fun of me. Now, I’m nowhere near as bad off as I used to be, but I still don’t have self-confidence. I still look in the mirror and see an ogre. If he were to compliment me I surely wouldn’t say, “Thank you,” rather I would deflect. These are all problems, obviously there is a reason I’m still in therapy. All I can say is it’s on the list and I will be working on it.

So given our rather messy history it is even stranger that he would object so strongly to my desire to remove the mole. And when we talked he calmed down and told me of course it was my body and my decision. But he explained that when he was saying, “No” what he was telling me was he loves me exactly as I am and he doesn’t want me to change anything. He was telling me that he accepts me. He was telling me that my perceived imperfections aren’t necessarily imperfections to everyone. He was telling me he didn’t want that old boyfriend’s reaction that has festered in my head for more than 15 years to cause me to change who I am.

What a fucking tremendous gift. How lucky am I to have a husband who knows all of my physical and emotional imperfections and loves me anyway? How amazing is it that I’ve gotten so much better that I believe him when he says these things to me? Perhaps I should be focusing on that shit, rather than a stupid mole. A task that would be made much easier if T would keep his greasy little paws off of it…

mole

Here it is in all its unfiltered glory. Honestly, I still haven’t decided what I’m going to do.

matching tattoos

The boy and I got matching Star Wars Tattoos. We are with the Rebel Alliance in case you were wondering.

My first Instagram video. Also featuring my mole. Z and our friend C were planning the treehouse they will be building in our yard this summer. I’m looking on. We’re all drinking. It’s raining. Normal summer night at our house. Man, we love that porch.

Letting Go

When we got home on Wednesday (Yay! Home!) I uncharacteristically started unpacking right away. The second drawer of my dresser is filled with assorted maternity and nursing wear and as I was cramming clothing into the other drawers the misuse of drawer two became more and more glaring. Yes, I’m still nursing C. He’ll be two at the end of August and I’ll probably wean him around that time. I’m still rocking the nursing tanks full time, but I haven’t had a nursing top on in over a year. And we aren’t having any more babies. So I put on my big girl pants and cleared out the drawer. Which means I dumped the clothing on the bed in our spare room. I assumed it would stay there until the next time we have guests so I wouldn’t have to think about the fact I’m not having another kid or that the baby I do have isn’t a baby anymore for a nice long time.

Over the last few years we’ve gotten tight with a group of three other families and we couldn’t wait to see them when we got back. Last night we had them over for a BBQ. Well, it turns out that our friend is expecting her third. Suddenly the pile of clothes on our spare room bed had a logical place to go.

I’m excited for our friend and her family. I can’t wait to get my hands on the baby once s/he arrives. At the same time I’m envious. I want another baby. I want to need the maternity clothes. I want to nurse a newborn. I want to need the nursing gear. Holding on to the clothing meant I didn’t have to face the fact that I’m done having kids. It was hard to face reality, but I’m glad the stuff will get used again. It’ll be fun to see my friend wearing it all.

I wish we could handle having a third, the truth is we can’t. Hell, a lot of days we can barely handle the two we have. As Z and I cleaned up the kitchen this morning I told him I wanted a third because mothering a newborn is intuitive to me. I’m good at it. And the older our boys get the worse I feel my parenting becomes. C is going through a particularly challenging phase and I feel like I’m fucking up with him right and left. This is my job and I suck. A baby would make me feel in control, like I could do something right. And the nursing. Oh man, the thought of finishing nursing C and being done forever makes me want to burst into tears. For me breastfeeding has been a lifeline, an easy way in to bonding with my kids, a cheat-the solution to any parenting problem, something tangible I can do for them when everything else about this parenting business is so damn nebulous.

I paused and looked at him. “I realize these are really stupid reasons to have a kid.”

Z, “I’m glad you said it so I don’t have to.”

I wish I was a competent enough Mom to feel like another was doable. I wish the money was there for a third. I wish that my uterus didn’t suck so bad at not being pregnant after childbirth (for new readers-retained placenta after T, incomplete miscarriage, and hemorrhage after C. I know, what a drama queen.)

On the other hand, some days I wish we didn’t choose to have kids at all and were still footloose and fancy free. Some days I wish we had six kids. Some days I wish we had one. Here’s the important thing, though–most of the days I’m happy that we have two boys who are two years, two weeks, and four days apart. I’m happy that I get to raise them with Z. And while I suck mightily at motherhood a lot of the time, I’m happy I always have the chance to try and do better. My boys deserve that.

And you know what? I’m glad three kids work for my friend and her family. I’m glad that one kid works for some of our friends. I’m glad that two kids with a three year split, or five year split, or six year split works for our other friends. Maybe it’s more accurate to say that I’m glad we are all making what we have work for us.

nursing

I’m grateful I get to do this for a little big longer.

c and c

I’m grateful that the boys were as excited to see our friends as we are.

family on pilot mountain

Most of all I’m grateful to be part of this family.

What Just Came Out of Your Mouth?

Tonight we are playing musical beds at my in-laws’ house because my sister-in-law and her family have come to town so we can celebrate my father-in-law’s 70th birthday together. This afternoon I was puttering around the room we are staying in, making a comfy little nest for T to sleep in on the floor. He was following me around and checking things out.

“Mommy? Come look at this!” he dragged me over to the closet and pointed to a shelf above his head. “Is that for me?”

I looked at the toy digger still in its packaging and remembered that my sister-in-law gifted it to the brand new baby in the family either at Christmas or at her baby shower. I explained to T that the digger wasn’t for him, it was baby G’s.

He wasn’t thrilled, but he went about his business. A few moments later he asked me if the digger was a transformer. “Nope.” I replied. “Just a digger.”

A few more moments passed. “But Mom? Girls don’t really like trucks.”

I whipped around to face him and launched into a monologue. “What? That is ridiculous and completely untrue, my friend. The fact that you have a penis has NOTHING to do with what you like. You like Princesses. You like super heros. You like Transformers. Because you are Thomas, not because you are a boy.”

“But Mom!” he cried, “I’m not Thomas! I’m Leonardo!” (Leonardo the Teenage Muntant Ninja Turtle-his latest obsession)

“Fair enough. You are Leonardo. Listen up, Leonardo. What you like has to do with you, not with your penis. Girls and boys get to like whatever they want. Do you go it?”

“I got it.”

“Good.”

Jesus fucking christ. T isn’t even four yet. He isn’t getting this gender role bullshit from Z and me. He isn’t getting it from his awesome teachers at school. Nick Jr. (his surrogate mother) isn’t great in the gender department, but it isn’t terrible either. Yet already the message is somehow getting through.

My approach will be to call bullshit on him whenever he goes there. To be mindful about how we talk about boys and girls-they might pee differently–so? Who cares? How they pee doesn’t mean they can’t achieve the same things. They have a hell of a lot more in common than not. I am fired up and ready to always confront gender issues head on. But man, I am sad. I know he was just trying to get the damn digger, still I’m sad it was so easy for him to declare that girls don’t like trucks. This sadness is legitimate. It doesn’t need to be examined. It has nothing to do with my mental illness. It’s a healthy response and I can take it and use it to work towards changing his attitude  Because rest assured, this kid will be raised to respect women and expect that women can do anything men can if it kills me. Thankfully Z is 100% on the same page.

post pool

Chilling after their Fighting for Feminism lecture, um, I mean after hanging at the pool….

dad furniture

Daddy made some excellent chainsaw furniture for the treehouse at Grandmom and Granddad’s house.

boy in backpack

Someone has a stowaway in his backpack. We’ll let him out as soon as he understands that a girl’s desire to play with trucks can be just as strong and is every bit as legitimate as a boy’s. I kid, I kid. Sort of.

Z’s Back

The day before Z came home my body stopped behaving. I had a twitch in my left pointer finger and thumb that was unrelenting and terrifying. The anxiety made my throat close up. It was hard to breath, it was hard not to cry. And I was furious. At everyone and everything.

He’s been back for a week and a half. We had an awesome night in a bed and breakfast complete with a couple’s massage. We slept until 7:20am. If you don’t have kids I promise that ridiculous sentence actually means something significant. Five years ago I wouldn’t have believed it, but such is life. We’ve spent time with my folks, my Gram, his sister and her family, his folks. We’ve done a bunch of really cool stuff. The boys are so happy to have Z home they can’t see straight.

My anxiety, on the other hand, has gotten much much worse. When I’m in the middle of it, even when I should know better because none of this is new, I can’t articulate what is going on in my brain. I withdrawal. I have zero patience. Z wants to help, but I won’t let him. I won’t tell him what is going on.

The last few days at my parents were difficult because I didn’t want to leave. While Z was gone my parents had my back completely. I didn’t know how to thank them, to convince them that I understood how much they did for us. Every time I would try and tell them I’d end up crying. They made me feel safe when I was raw and vulnerable  I didn’t know how to say goodbye. No one knew what to do with me.

On the drive to Z’s parents the boys fell asleep. Z had been back in the country for a week and I was finally able to share with him the lies that the anxiety was telling me. The longer Z was gone the louder she got. She told me that he only missed the boys and not me. She told me that I was nothing more than a childcare provider, I had no other value in our marriage or in life. She told me that I will never have the opportunity to do something for myself like Z’s trip to Japan because I was tied to the boys. She told me to resent him, to be eaten alive with jealousy. She told me it was ok to be angry. She told me even when he got back it wouldn’t get better.

So I’m angry. Which makes me ashamed. I hate myself for being so small. For not being able to handle a month in which I have an enormous amount of help with any grace. I’m ashamed I need him so badly, that I still question if he loves me. I’m ashamed that my anxiety has been so acute that the one thing I’m supposed to be doing-being a Mom- isn’t going well. I spiral from fine to apoplectic with them in the blink of an eye. I’m yelling all the time.  I’m ashamed that I’m so lucky and have been given so much and am still shackled by the stupid voice in my head. I’m ashamed that none of this is new-hell I’ve written near identical posts numerous times-yet it feels new every single time.

But.

The moment still came when I was able to open up to Z. To find the words. To tell him the thoughts I had that scared me the most, the thoughts I can’t figure out how to write about yet. And he exhaled, “Oh, Karen…” while he was driving down the highway. He reached over and held on to my leg. He told me he loves me. That he knows I am having a hard time.

And I’m able to realize some important things. For the month he was gone we did a shitload of stuff. Saw family, went to the beach, went to a cool hotel/waterpark, the aquarium, swam, boated, walked, played. I participated in life.  I took my meds and let them help me. When I needed time away from the boys I asked my folks for help. I went to three yoga classes. I got two massages. I took my mom for a pedicure. My friend came and visited for a few days. From the outside I looked like a completely normal human. Just a few years ago I wouldn’t have been able to do any of that.

I’m still struggling. It’s hard on Z and the boys. Hard on whoever we are staying with at the moment. Hell, it’s hard on me. We are ready to be back home. I’m ready to go to therapy and talk about how to let this anger and fear go.

boys racing

Over on Instagram it certainly looks like we are having the time of our lives. We are having a good time. I am having a terrible time. What does that mean? What is the lie? I don’t think either of them are lies. Still rocking the honestly over here. I’m in love with my family. I think my boys and husband are beautiful and want to share their pictures. The happiness and excitement is sincere. The pain in sincere, too. It’s just harder to see. Harder to show.

raft

I’m proud of myself for this. I hate boats. I hate rafts. But I did this for the boys and they really dug it.

heading out for date night

Our pre-date overnight picture. Now that was a good night.

playing in the waterfall

My boys in the bottom of my folk’s pool.

From One to Ten

Technology is a beautiful thing. Z has been able to facetime with us almost every single morning and night while he has been gone. He calls somewhere around 7 or 8 am for us and 8 or 9 pm for him. And then he calls again at around 7 or 8am for him and 6 or 7pm for us. We’ve been going out a lot for dinner, so I’ve been breaking my no-cell-at-restaurants rule. I accept the call and dart outside so we can chat for a moment.

Tonight I was already headed outside when the phone rang. Taking toddlers out for dinner is a major crap shoot and C was an absolute mess. We were at a restaurant on a golf course in my parent’s neighborhood and as soon as I’d shoveled a bunch of food down my throat I grabbed my little guy so he could shriek like a pterodactyl without disturbing any more diners.

While C ran around outside I explained to Z what what going on. “I’m at Defcon 10 with the anxiety. I feel like I’ve blown up and am clinically obese. It’s bad right now.” “Pfft.” he replied. “You are at a two tops. You are just being a little overdramatic. Ten is when you can’t leave the house and are suicidal. You are nowhere near 10.”

On the one hand it sort of sucks to be told your intense discomfort is small potatoes, but on the other hand he was totally right. And he made me laugh. He’s good at defusing my crazy. But the most important moment was when I was able to actually realize he was right.

Because here are the facts: I was out at a restaurant. This morning I took my kids to a toddler play event at the pool. Yes, the organizers spaced and didn’t show up, but the kids still had fun. We were there on time and that is pretty big for me. After dinner my dad wanted ice cream so we headed to the shop in a strip mall and found out that there is a free family movie even on Tuesday mornings at the Movie Theater. We are going to take T this week. After ice cream we headed to the Lake Club at the base of my parent’s street to grab a class schedule and so the boys could play pinball in the game room for a few minutes. Not to jinx anything, but I’m planning on taking a yoga class tomorrow at 8:30. Am I having a rough time? Yup. But I’m doing stuff, god damn it. A lot of stuff. It’s pretty fucking terrific.

So yes, yesterday’s post was pretty grim. And to borrow from Z it was a little overdramatic. The point was supposed to be that while I do suck as a Mom I always have the opportunity to not suck in the future. It was suppose to be kind of hopeful. And I’m fully aware it wasn’t. Oops.

toddler karen

This picture hangs in the room I stay in at my folks house. Man is T my kid.

bumblebee sunglasses

His Uncle A got him and his cousin amazing sunglasses for the beach. T’s are Bumblebee the Transformer who he is currently obsessed with.

Leonardo

Although Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles are quickly replacing Autobots in his heart. His Grandma and he made four masks for the turtles today. Here he is as Leonardo.

Night Fear

After telling T that I was done, done, done. Done. DONE. That I wouldn’t go back up to his room. That he would be in huge trouble if he called for me. After telling him all that I joined my father in the living room and said, “I hate myself right now.”

T is scared at night. It’s been going on for the last few months. We talk about what scares him. I make up stories about what will protect him. At our house it is his Star Wars Sheets, the Millenium Falcon toy that hangs from his ceiling, the blinds and curtains which are magic and won’t let the bad guys in. At my folk’s house it is his bear shirt and tiger. When we go out to eat and the cutlery is wrapped in a napkin with a rectangle of paper pasted into a circle I carefully open it and draw treasure maps and teenage mutant ninja turtles for him. A pile of them protected him last night.

The usual stuff didn’t comfort him. He told me he was still scared. But I was frustrated. I need a few fucking hours to myself before doing it all again in the morning. I told him I was done. I told him not to be scared. And I left.

When I was T’s age I was terrified of night time. As I would lay in bed, sure that someone was coming to murder me, I’d swear to myself that I’d figure out how to comfort my own child someday.

T has a long bedtime routine filled with special attention and traditions. I want to be able to take away his fear. I want to live up to the promises I made myself as a terrified little girl about how I’d raise my own kids. And yet I had the balls to tell him not to be scared. Total bullshit. He is scared. It is legitimate. And it is piss poor parenting for me not to validate his feelings. Piss poor.

I’m tapped out. I can’t figure out how to comfort him. I can’t figure out how to comfort myself. Lately my whole day is focused around how many hours there are until bedtime when I can get away from the kids. I forget to be grateful for everything I have and fantasize about how awesome it must be to get a break from the day to day. I am jealous of Z. I know he misses us, but I also know how incredible it must be to sleep alone for a month with zero responsibility for any other humans. I resent him for getting the break. I hate myself for being such a petty bitch.

I fail at this parenting business. I put my scared kid to bed and left because I can’t be Mom for one more fucking second in this day, really I can’t be Mom tomorrow either but I don’t have  a fucking choice. I hate myself. I hate myself for failing him. And I hate the parents who get it right. Those who have endless reserves of patience and understanding. Parents who soldier on even though they haven’t gotten a lot of sleep. Parents who don’t yell. Parents who are winning at this raising-small-humans gig.

I’m a bad mom. I’m a bad mom. I’m not good enough for him. I fail him constantly. I’m selfish and I want to escape. I fail him. I suck. I hate myself. And it would be easy to wallow in it all. Thankfully I recognize that rolling around in the filth of my self loathing is a well established pattern. It’s my mental illness taking over–I suck and I will always suck and there is nothing I can do about it.

Fuck that. I’m not doing that anymore. My boys are too important. There is something I can do to help the situation. I can start over tomorrow. He isn’t getting another Mom. I’m the Mom he’s got. So I will attempt to do better.

I love him so much. I love him and his brother and his father. I love him and I will fail him and I will have to try and do better the next day countless times as I’m raising him. Christ, it is painful.

splash

It rained all day and we were stuck inside. Out of desperation I took them into the rain after dinner to splash in puddles.

t in rain

He asked me to take his picture and then did this nonsense.

c in the rain

My very wet littlest man.

Current Level of Crazy

My sister and I were standing in the hall having a hurried conversation about god knows what yesterday. I suddenly smelled my armpits and rudely interrupted her with this short and rather manic monologue:

“My armpits really smell right now…even though I used drysol*. I use drysol every day, you know. I think it is giving me cancer. I mean, I think I have cancer right now. For the last week I’ve been thinking non-stop about how the cancer is eating me from the inside. I am now dying of cancer.”

She stared at me for a moment with her mouth open a little bit. “It would be fascinating to be inside your brain.”

So yes, the crazy is really rearing her ugly head and messing with my mind. I actually believe I am dying of cancer. Right now. I know it is ludicrous. I know that it probably isn’t true. The problem is I can’t help but believe it with my whole being.

*drysol is a prescription strength antiperspirant.  I’m gross enough to get a prescription for my hideous sweating problem. And vain enough to use it even though I know it probably is really bad for me.

huge bubble

We took the big boys to a children’s museum on a rainy afternoon. T made this awesome bubble.

beach rainbow

Later that evening there was a beautiful rainbow.

tidal pool

A tidal pool formed in front of a sandbar during low tide today and the boys did not want to get out of it.

cousins kiss goodbye

Today was our last day at the beach. My sister and her family took off after dinner tonight and the rest of us are out of here first thing in the morning. The big boys gave each other a huge hug goodbye and then very sweetly kissed goodbye as well.

The trip was awesome. I’m really sad that Z missed out on seeing his boys fall in love with the shore.